31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 20} – Long Term Hope

This morning, as I read in Luke, I came upon this story:

On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

 

The story goes on, as typical for these kinds of stories, with the synagogue rulers indignant and ticked off that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.  And then, of course, Jesus rebukes them basically saying, “you care more for your animals than you do for the needs of a person.”

Two main things caught my attention with this passage.  First of all, it was a Sabbath and Jesus always seemed to be doing things that the Pharisees didn’t like on the Sabbath.  But more, so this phrase caught my eye… and my heart:

 

EIGHTEEN YEARS.

This woman, had probably lost all hope of being healed.  Seriously, eighteen years… that’s a long time.  And going back to the other thing that caught my attention… this was a Sabbath… even if this woman knew who Jesus was and had any hope that maybe healing could be provided, she probably would have never thought that healing would come today of all days… it was a Sabbath.  I imagine, any hope that was there, was very small.  Yet, I do believe there was hope.

If there was no hope, then why was this woman who had suffered from an evil spirit for so long even AT the synagogue that day?  In my opinion, she had long-term hope.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, SOMEDAY I will be healed. 

As I think about this story, I think about people I know and love and care about who have been suffering for a long time.  Whether the struggle is physical, spiritual, or emotional, as each day passes without relief, hope slowly fades.  “It’s already been so long,”  their minds protest.  “How could healing EVER come now?” 

Yet, God doesn’t call us to understand.. he calls us to trust him.  Our healing may not come today.  Our healing may not come tomorrow or next year, or even in this life time.  But even if it doesn’t, we continue to ask God to give us what we need to remain faithful and trust.  We ask God to help us to come into his presence, like this woman did, time and time again, knowing that in your time and in your way, you will call us forward and say, “My son… My daughter… you are set free from your infirmity.” 

God, please give us hope for today… and tomorrow…. and the next day… and the next day… and the next day… until THAT day:

 

“Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching head.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7:16-17)

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 19} – Made New

I’ve heard the stories again and again.

Each one so distinct and unique, yet, so similar at the core.

Something happened-

Many things maybe.

Something so horrifying it rarely,

if ever,

gets any attention in conversation.

Yet, it gets all the attention in the heart.

 

Neglect.

Rape.

Abuse.

 

The death of a loved one.

The death of a marriage.

The death of a friendship.

 

An eating disorder.

Depression.

Self-injury.

 

A monstrous mistake.

A horrific memory.

A crippling fear.

 

“I’m not good enough.”

“Will I ever change?”

 

The shame is too much.

The guilt is too heavy.

 

Forgotten.

Alone.

Afraid.

 

Whether it was “their fault” or not, the pain obviously runs deep as the story eventually flows out. But it’s not just “them.” 

 

It’s me

and

it’s YOU. 

 

We all have had those secret things buried deep in our hearts… those times when we seriously wonder…

 

Is there any hope?

 

Can God REALLY do anything with this messed up life of mine?!? 

Through the darkness comes a marvelous Light responding:

“YES! THERE IS HOPE!  I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!

No matter what mess you’ve gotten yourself into… no matter what anyone has done to you… no matter how much sin has messed up your life and messed up your heart, I can, and will, through Christ, make something BEAUTIFUL out of your life! 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

Isaiah 43:19 See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Things
by Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll even find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

 

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 9} – “Against All Hope”

Thinking about some of the high school kids that are in playoffs for sports in these coming weeks makes me think about my high school experience.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my high school and there were many things that our school was really good at (music, basketball, etc.)… but football just wasn’t one of those things.  We rarely won a game, and actually, when my sister was in school there, they didn’t win a single football game in the 4 years she was in high school.

 

We were definitely the “underdog” and by definition (and reputation) normally had no chance of winning.  We were expected to loose. Yet, there must have been some hope somewhere, right?  Our team may not have had the best skills in the city, but if nothing else, they had HOPE. If they had absolutely no hope, they would never even suited up. Each week, as they stepped onto the field, they believed in hope that somehow, someway, they just MIGHT be able to pull out a win.

 

That’s kind of the situation we see with dear old “Father Abraham.”    God tells him that he will be the father of many nations… yet he looks around and sees that … well … he sees that he’s OLD … 100 years old actually.  And his wife, Sarah, yeah… she was 90.  I’m guessing that their HOPE to have children was LONG gone.  Yet, we read this awesome passage in Romans 4:18- 22

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening of his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

 

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.

 

I don’t think this idea of being “against all hope” is not too distant from our own realities. 

 

You, like Abraham and Sarah, wish desperately that you could have a family. Yet, as the days and the years tick by, hope for a spouse or children begins to fade. 

Or perhaps the bad economy has taken a toll on you.  As you search the classifieds day after day and submit resume number 643, you begin to wonder if you’ll ever find another job. 

You’re battling an illness.  And no matter how hard you fight, it seems to fight back even stronger.

That pile of homework will never end.

It seems as if no one sees the pain you’re going through.

The college tuition is just too much.

The secret sins cover you with shame.

Guilt and fear threaten to eat you alive

 

YOU’RE AGAINST ALL HOPE.

 

May we, like Abraham, have faith to face the fact that while our situations seem hopeless… our God is faithful to fulfill his promises.  I mean seriously… a 90-year old woman and a 100-year old man were able to have a child! 

 

As was written of Abraham, let it be said of us as well: 

“AGAINST ALL HOPE THEY, IN HOPE, BELIEVED!”

Lord, thank you for giving us the example of Abraham as comfort when we face situations that seem to hold no hope.  We pray that we would not “waver through unbelief” but rather be “strengthened in faith” and give glory to you. May our hearts be “fully persuaded” that You have the power to do what you have promised in our lives.  When we find ourselves “against all hope” may we in HOPE… believe.  In Jesus’ Powerful Name, AMEN!